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Unceded Coast Salish Territories
To the organizing activist communities of Vancouver,
We will no longer be making space for individuals or organizing groups that perpetuate the systemic cycle of oppression and inequality. We no longer have patience for those who either directly abuse people of marginalized groups or those who do nothing to stop such abuse. Neutrality = complicity.
Not taking a stand in a situation with power dynamics immediately and by definition provides more power to the privileged party. If a man attacks a woman, if a white person attacks a person of color, is an able-bodied person attacks a disabled person, all of these situations have a power dynamic in them. Maintaining a neutral stance hands more power to the person of privilege.
The fluid community of Occupy Vancouver has been plagued by abuse, neutrality towards that abuse and even support of that abuse. Calls to “just let it go” or “move on” are demeaning to the safety of the women, people of color and other marginalized groups in our movement and will no longer be tolerated.
Some months ago, a man refused to cease contact with a woman he met through the Occupy Vancouver movement. After several attempts on the woman’s part to rid herself of his presence, he continued so she was forced to seek safety through the greater community. A brave group of self identified women and genderqueer folks confronted this man, letting him know that his behaviour was not OK and that he was required to have zero contact with this woman again. He has not been receptive to these demands. He has in fact stepped up the harassment in increasingly aggressive and disturbing ways. Still, the actions of The Circle of Protection are nothing short of inspiring to us as concerned members of OV and other radical communities in and around Vancouver.
The man in question has been given several opportunities to take help and guidance in the path towards accountability and acknowledging the harm that he has done. He has thus far refused any and all help that has been provided him. He will not hold himself accountable, and does not acknowledge that stalking and harassing a woman is wrong. This response has forced the Circle Of Protection to demand absence from Occupy or any other social movements within Vancouver. We wholeheartedly agree.
The aggressor in this instance has proved to be influential over a minority of men within the community. His allies accompany him, endeavoring to protect him, under some misguided sense that he is somehow a victim. That the woman not complying with his every whim was somehow an attack against his “manhood”, and that the brave people that organize and move to protect her from his abuse are but a gang of bullies.
As comical as that may seem, it is quite serious. This brand of victim-blaming and misogyny is exactly what causes women to go missing across the globe. It is hateful, it is dangerous, and it is not welcome in our communities.
This specific situation is not simply “drama” or an “interpersonal issue”. It is a symptom of a greater illness. We live in a sick society, one where women are blamed for the abuse that they endure and are questioned endlessly to provide some kind of “proof” of their abuse. We live in a society where the louder voice is listened to and believed with little question.
While women are often subject to harassment and stalking within social movements there is quite often very little community response. All too often, the victim is driven out of the community while the aggressor is allowed to remain unscathed. This is why we, as a community are thrilled about The Circle Of Protections approach to dealing with these issues autonomously and without state intervention. This is something we can and must learn from. This group is not only dealing with one isolated problematic and dangerous situation; they are providing a framework which we can look to in the future when these problems arise. And they will arise.
The time to reclaim and maintain our safe spaces is now. The time to uphold the principles that bring us together is now. The time to recognize and let go of our privilege(s) is now.
We stand in solidarity with the circle, and we will not stop organizing for safety.
In solidarity with the Circle of Protection.